COP18 Doha UN climate talks Dec 3rd

Monday 0850: There’s something brutal about the way climate research centres time the publishing of their choice findings.

As delegates descend on the Qatar National Convention Centre desperately seeking a breakthrough in UN climate negotiations, the Global Carbon Project flings the stats for 2011 carbon dioxide emissions in their faces. Plus provisional figures for 2012 for good measure.

Being told that emissions are 58% above 1990 levels when you’re trying to save the Kyoto Protocol is not what you want to hear. Here’s a couple more of the many choice facts from the data published by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research:

China’s per capita emissions are up to 6.6 tons, close to Europe at 7.3 tons, a parity that would trigger a real shift in the dynamics of the UN process. Shame about the US on 17.2 tons.

30% of China’s emissions relate to goods consumed in other countries, an awkward complication.


Monday 0910: Thanks to a stream of pertinent articles, Alex Morales of Bloomberg has made a real contribution to putting COP18 in the public eye during the unglamorous business of Week 1 of the proceedings.

For his Sunday best, he’s gone straight for the jugular in the insistence of donor countries that the public purse must remain closed to climate finance whilst they tackle more important economic woes.

It seems that the public purse remains open to the fossil fuel industry, with subsidies on a different scale to anything contemplated for the impact of their business on developing countries. Morales quotes the research of the campaign group, Oil Change International.

Expect plenty of angry exchanges on this topic in Doha this week. The figures are an appalling indictment of economic management in OECD countries. Expect too that these richer countries will say that the UN climate conference should mind its own business and leave such matters to groups such as the G20.

I like the Oil Change International focus on the richer countries in the subsidy debate because it separates out the considerable fuel subsidies in poorer countries. These too urgently need to be reduced but in a very different context of recognising the hardship this will cause to individual households.


Monday 1115: Texts for all tracks of the climate negotiations have been produced over the weekend as promised and will be the basis for talks this week. This was announced by Christiana Figueres, head of the UN climate secretariat at a press conference just completed.

“We are working day and night. I am confident that we will reach a conclusion,” said Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, the president of the Doha COP.

Asked to comment on rumours in the Indian media of secret closed door meetings between favoured groups, Al-Attiyah said: “We never work behind the scenes….I am assuring you this is not my style.”

The two organisers of the Doha COP were asked to comment on a banner observed at Saturday’s historic climate march in Doha. “Don’t say you need more time. You are playing with my future.” it read.

Christiana Figueres welcomed the impatience of youth but warned:

it must be understood that what we are are negotiating here is a complete transformation of the economic structure of the world. This cannot happen overnight….what gives me hope is that what we will have achieved in Doha is another firm step in the right direction.

“We cannot change the whole world in a few days,” chimed in Mr Al-Attiyah.


Monday 1145: Can it be true that climate negotiators have actually agreed something at the Doha COP?

Could it be that talks based in an Arab state could agree something that furthers the cause of gender equality?

There’s been an energetic and sustained campaign, supported by key players such as Mary Robinson and Connie Hedegaard, for this motion:

promoting gender balance and improving the participation of women in UNFCCC negotiations and in the representation of bodies established pursuant to the Convention or the Kyoto Protocol

Sometime over the weekend it looks as though negotiators have agreed to put this “draft decision” to the main Conference later this week for approval.


Monday 1405: WWF has called into question whether Poland is a suitable country for hosting the 2013 UN climate negotiations.

“In general, WWF does not comment on the host of COPs,” said Samantha Smith, head of WWF’s global climate and energy initiative at the press conference now under way. “Poland’s record in the EU is a sad tale and is not a tale of a climate host,” she said.

Smith chronicled the sequence of Poland’s efforts to block progressive initiatives in Europe, from pledges on emissions to the cancellation of “hot air” permits which threatens to neuter the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Europe’s long track record of leadership in climate change has been undermined by Poland’s actions.

“Poland is doing the dirty work for Russia and the US in these negotiations,” said Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace.


Monday 1500: Todd Stern, US special envoy for climate change, has spoken at his press conference on the subject of climate finance in terms which could be interpreted as an assurance, albeit a modest one.

Referring to a report that the US has contributed around $7.5 billion over the three years of the “fast start finance” period (2010-2012), he said:

we have every intention of pressing on with funding at that kind of level. Obviously we’ll need Congressional approval

Many will be disappointed that Stern poured cold water on expectations that “Doha would be a coming out party for the US on climate” (to borrow words of a journalist from Climate Wire).  Whilst acknowledging that President Obama “has been talking a lot about climate change” since his re-election, including in his victory speech, Stern seemed more anxious to catalogue at length the climate-related achievements of the first term.

Looking ahead to the second term, he said: “I don’t know I could think about things as a change in tone.”

Stern also expressed the view that the US pledge of 17% emissions reduction by 2020 (from 2005 baseline) will be achieved without the need for legislation. He offered no prospect of further pledging for that period.

No doubt Ms Hedegaard will be speaking to the US envoy on that subject.


Monday 1550: Two immediate points of concern emerging from the Climate Action Network press conference just finished.

First, the statement made by Christiana Figueres earlier today that texts for all three strands of the negotiations were ready for consideration by ministers may represent a slightly optimistic version of the state of play. According to Lama el Hatow of CAN International, the text relating to the troublesome Bali Action Plan track has been completed for only one of its four pillars (mitigation). The other three remain difficult (adaptation, finance and technology transfer).

Second, Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists mentioned rumours that Japan might be backtracking on its 2020 pledge of emission reductions of 25%, even to the extent of reverting to old targets of 5%-8%. Meyer stressed that there is no confirmation but he seemed jittery also on Japan’s commitment to climate finance beyond 2012. The country made an important contribution to the 2010-2012 fast start period.

There was a sense of genuine concern amongst the CAN speakers for the fate of the Doha COP. Add in Chee Yoke Ling’s assessment earlier today that “the situation looks quite bleak” for agreement on the Kyoto Protocol track, it’s clear that ministers face a formidable task over coming days.

Both Connie Hedegaard and Todd Stern opened their remarks to the press with comforting descriptions of the Doha COP as “transitional”, implying that we can all relax about the outcome. It doesn’t feel very relaxed just now.


Monday 1720: I didn’t have time to comment on the European Union press conference which took place earlier this afternoon.

The Commissioner for Climate Change, Connie Hedegaard, has been dealt a lousy hand by her capitals. Unwilling to scale up its emissions pledge from 20% to 30% – and impotent against Poland’s spoiler tactics on everything – Europe is not going to be able to call the shots in Doha as it did in Durban last year. The alliances Ms Hedegaard formed then are not exactly snuggling up to the EU this time.

You wouldn’t have believed any of this from the Commissioner’s forceful mood. She was soon wading into recalcitrant countries, in the proper diplomatic manner of course.

First she cited figures published yesterday by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research which showed that China’s per capita rate of emissions has nearly caught up with Europe. As for US, Russia and “this region” (Middle East) the figures are too awful for Ms Hedegaard to mention.

Challenged on her expectations of the US team, she said:

It won’t get us far pointing fingers but it is a fact that since 1990 – the Kyoto baseline – the EU has decreased its emissions by 18% whilst the US has increased by 10.8%. We share a common obligation to try to be more ambitious.

Referring to the prospect that the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol will cover only 15% of global emissions (mostly Europe), she twice posed the question:

What are the other countries representing 85% of global emissions doing to get emissions under control? Our offer of moving to 30% (by 2020) remains on the table but is conditional on others bringing more to the table formally.

This stance is exactly the same that Europe adopted last year, The difference this time is that it has become apparent that the 20% target will be achieved as early as next year.

Ms Hedegaard needs a little help from unexpected quarters. Candidates might be ministers from other participants in the second Kyoto period, or just possibly Germany or UK.


Monday 1810: The COP President has called an informal stocktaking plenary which is now under way.

The strongest language so far has come from the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). Mr Ratu Sainivalati Sovui Navoti, the chair from Nauru, explained that the AOSIS ministers held their own stocktaking meeting yesterday.

“It was a sobering experience,” he said, “across all tracks we do not see urgency, we do not see ambition.”

A workplan for increasing ambition for emission reductions before 2020 is completely missing, complained Mr Navoti. But this was agreed in Durban, The AOSIS Group will therefore produce its own text, he announced.

The stance adopted by AOSIS is important. Whilst they have the strongest possible case for demanding action on climate change, pressing the talks to the point of collapse may not be in their interests. A terrible dilemma.

The general sense of dissatisfaction was heightened by Claudia Salerno, lead negotiator for Venezuela, Everything we have seen so far is designed to “enrich developed countries,” she insisted. “There is nothing for environmental integrity.

As for the mainstream position of developing countries, their voice has been consistent, notably from the G77/China Group and the new group known as the “Like-minded Developing Countries.”

In the words of the Indian speaker for the latter group:, “we came to Doha with great expectations of a balanced and comprehensive outcome but progress with the work so far has been a disappointment.”

As with AOSIS, these groups are broadly stating that they expect what was agreed in Durban to be honoured.

The President has promised to hold regular stocktaking sessions.


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